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THE JORDAN COMPANY – 1

1-7-04

The Jordan Company manufactures automobile piston rings, pistons, valves, and related
products. The plant is located in South Bend, Indiana. The company is relatively small,
employing 350 production workers in addition to 125 office and sales employees and executives.
Growth has been rather rapid—from an initial twelve employees to the present number in eleven
years.

The founder and president, Thomas Jordan, also holds the title of sales manager in his company.
Before organizing the Jordan Company, he had been the sales manager of a large automotive
parts manufacturer. Believing that his extensive contacts in the automobile industry and his
proven sales ability would enable him to own his own company, he went into business for
himself after obtaining additional capital from two friends, each of whom owns 20 percent
interest in the firm.

Jordan never gave much attention to the production aspects of the business. In fact, he devoted
about 25 percent of his time to contacting important customers and the twenty manufacturers’
agents representing the company in the southern and western states. Frank Elliot, his plant
manager, started with the company at the time of its organization. He laid out the plant,
established production and quality standards, and hired all the production supervisors under him
as well as several of the first production workers. It was the practice of the company to allow
each supervisor to hire, discipline, transfer, promote and otherwise make decisions about
personnel matters within his or her department.

Jordan observed that as the company grew in number of employees, morale appeared to
degenerate. He commented to Elliot that “the one-big-happy-family spirit that pervaded our
people during the first few years of the company disappeared during the past two years.”
Consequently, Jordan decided that the company should employ a personnel manager.

John Graham, chief cost accountant, learned of Jordan’s plans through one of the secretaries with
whom he had lunch in the plant cafeteria. John had wanted to get into personnel work for some
time. As he put it, “I always did prefer working with people to working with numbers.” John
had worked with the Jordan Company for seven years. He joined the company in the
bookkeeping department immediately after graduating from college. Because the company was
small and work was not highly departmentalized, he had many contacts with people in both
production and sales. Elliot and Jordan both believed that he was an alert, conscientious
employee who “generally is well-liked by all.” John applied for the position of personnel
manager, and he was selected for the job.

After much debate, it was decided to make the personnel manager part of the production
management section, the manager of which reported to the plant manager. John was given an
office near the entrance to the plant and a secretary was assigned to him. The president told him
at the time of his appointment that “the scope and success of the personnel department’s
activities will be pretty much what you make of them.”
John immediately sent a memo to all production supervisors, over the signature of the production
manager, advising them that “the personnel manager will hire all new employees in the future.”
In addition, the memo stated that the personnel manager would henceforth initiate all transfers
and changes in pay. Furthermore, all disciplinary actions and other personnel decisions must be
approved by the personnel manager before being acted upon. On receiving the memo, several
supervisors expressed considerable resentment against this organizational change. They agreed
that John had gotten “a big head.”

After a short time, the production manager began to receive complaints from the supervisors to
the effect that “new employees weren’t what they were when we hired them.” On one occasion
when he questioned a supervisor about a drop in production, the supervisor said his hands were
tied—he couldn’t hire, discipline, or otherwise control his people. And, if he couldn’t control his
people, how could he be expected to get out production?

One day an employee came into John’s office and protested that her supervisor had discharged
her “for no reason at all.” John phoned the supervisor and the following conversation took place:

JOHN: Hello Jim, this is John Graham. What’s the story on Linda Ralfing?

SUPERVISOR: I fired her.

JOHN: Yes, I know, but why?

SUPERVISOR: I don’t like her.

JOHN: But that’s not a good reason. You know that you can’t fire her without an OK from my
office.

SUPERVISOR: Well, I did it.

JOHN: But you can’t, Jim. There has to be a good reason, and .....

SUPERVISOR: I don’t like her—that’s reason enough.

The supervisor hung up. John presented the matter to the production manager, who finally
insisted that the employee be reinstated. Soon the number of complaints concerning the hiring of
poor workers and the lack of control over personnel began to increase. The supervisors agreed to
“stay clear” of the personnel department as much as possible.

Finally, the production manager advised the plant manager that he did not believe the firm was
large enough to warrant a personnel department. He recommended that the company return to
the former plan of having supervisors each make their own personnel decisions. Finally, he
urged that John be returned to his former job.

What should Mr. Elliot and Mr. Jordan do now?